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Apple Reveals iOS 14 for iPhones With Widgets, App Library

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Apple (AAPL - Free Report) made a slew of announcements at the first virtual WWDC 2020, its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. The company unveiled the new iOS 14 and a redesigned iPhone home screen, along with iPadOS 14, MacOS Big Sur, and updates to TVOS and WatchOS.

The latest major release of Apple’s iOS 14, includes a collection of long-awaited refinements to core user interface elements, as well as a few new features that address other omissions in the largely mature platform.

Notably, the latest version to the operating system will be released by the end of the year as a free software update for iPhone 6s models and later.

New Usability Features in iPhones

Transforming the iPhone experience, several of iOS 14’s changes impact iPhone’s display, including the Home screen with new widgets, phone calling interface, and App Store previews in addition to an array of new usability and privacy enhancements.

The revamped iPhone and iPad home screens will include widgets, which contain more information and are more functional than app icons. These have been a mainstay feature on Alphabet (GOOGL - Free Report) owned Google's Android since its inception in 2008.

Widgets are offered in multiple sizes, including squares and rectangles that can either be full-width or half-width on the screen, inserted directly into the Home screen or kept within the left-of-Home screen Day view. A new Widget Gallery lets users see different size and design options, taken in some cases from Apple Watch views. There’s also a Smart Stack that can appear at one place on the screen and shift between multiple views.

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Apple introduced the Translate app designed for use in real-time conversations. It can translate between 11 languages, including English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German and Korean. As of March 2020, Google's 14-year-old dedicated translate app could transcribe conversations in eight languages in real time.

App Clips lets users preview small parts of apps quickly without downloading them. This can come in handy when trying to pay for takeout or parking, since App Clips is compatible with Apple Pay and Sign In with Apple. The App Clips can be discovered and accessed by scanning a new Apple-designed App Clip code or QR codes, or shared in Messages or from Safari. App Clips are integrated with Apple Pay for easy payment and Sign in with Apple for quick and private login.

Notably, Google introduced a similar feature, Instant Apps, in 2016. Instant Apps gives apps their own URL so users don't have to download an entire app for a single transaction, like buying concert tickets.

App Library in Apple's redesigned home screen organizes apps into groups and lists. With the new home screen in iOS 14, users can also hide apps from their main home-screen. This is similar to Android's app drawer without the grouping features. 

Apple Maps cycling directions will enable users to travel in a more eco-friendly fashion with iOS 14 and WatchOS 7. The dedicated Cycling option will help users find bike paths while taking into account elevation, stairs on the route, whether the route is busy or quiet among others.

Picture-in-picture feature will allow users to be able to watch a video while using other apps. The video will shrink and be able to float anywhere on the screen. It can also be swiped away while the video's audio can still play. Notably, Android phones already have the ability to float videos over other apps.

Wind Down mode helps users get ready for bed. The feature, which works for iPhone and Apple Watch, lets you set a desired bed time and wake-up time, and puts your phone into Do Not Disturb mode. There are also options to add shortcuts for meditation or playing relaxing music. Although Google doesn't have a dedicated app for this but there is a way to set up a bed time routine through the Google Home app.

Privacy Enhancement Measures

On the privacy front, all iOS apps will be required to obtain user permission before tracking — including information collected about a user on an app or website owned by one company with information collected separately by other companies for targeted ads, ad measurement, or via data brokers.

Also, developers will also be required to self-report privacy summaries for their apps in the App Store. Additionally, Apple devices with iOS 14 will allow users to share only their approximate location (with blocking option available) avoiding to share precise locations.

Apple is constantly battling targeted advertising, which is becoming more invasive. Apple is bringing in new privacy features to its software, like its intelligence tracking prevention technology and allowing Safari users to install content blockers that prevent ads and trackers from loading.

Meanwhile, Apple confirmed there will be an option for iPhone users to set a default web browser and email app that launch after clicking a link or want to compose a new mail message implying that an iPhone user could set Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s (MSFT - Free Report) Outlook as the default email program, or Firefox or Chrome as the browser.

This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company has been under growing criticism for alleged anticompetitive behavior with respect to the App Store and how it does business with app developers. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Notably, music-streaming service Spotify (SPOT - Free Report) has filed a formal complaint against Apple, alleging unfair practice by the iPhone maker to lower competition.

Last week, the European Union formally opened an antitrust investigation into Apple’s App Store business practices, including its 30% tax on all transactions and requiring apps to use the in-app purchasing system. The regulator is also looking into Apple Pay.

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